I have to be honest, I sort of just fell into voiceover, slowly. Disclaimer: This is not the way it usually happens for most people, I was incredibly lucky! I was taking an acting class one evening and a local VO Pro was sitting in with us. She told me that I had a great voice, that I should do voiceover, and that she wanted to work with me on it. I immediately loved this woman and was flattered, but hadn’t previously considered doing voiceover. I was still in the beginning stages of acting and was really focusing all of my time on learning the craft. I expressed my interest to her, but never followed up on it. I kept kicking myself over it, but the truth is, I’m glad I didn’t follow up back then – I had a lot to learn about acting in general before I could even think about doing voiceover. In my opinion, if you want to be a great Voice Actor, you’ve gotta be a great Actor first.
So a few years and one agent later, I finally thought, ya know I should see about that voiceover thing. So I contacted Amy Hartman, the VO Pro from my class and she agreed to take me on as a student and help me produce a demo. We spent a great deal of time together working on it. Then I got busy with some film and theatre stuff and again voiceover just kind of got pushed to the side. Several months later, Amy contacted me to let me know that she was doing drop-ins (this is where several VO actors get together and take turns honing their skills in the studio). I started going to these sessions and had a great time at them. After awhile I got busy again and dropped off the VO radar for many more months. Amy contacted me yet again to let me know that she was teaching a group class and that I should join them if I was interested. I had finished up several big projects and had a little extra time on my hands so I agreed. I took the class and had a blast – we all did. So much so that we decided to continue the class through another 6 weeks or so. In all this time, I had done one or two VO jobs when people had asked me to, but I hadn’t really pursued it in the same way I had my acting career. Towards the end of our second round of classes, Amy urged us all to sign up for some websites and create profiles to get our names out there. One of those sites was ACX – a site where you can narrate audiobooks to be sold on Audible. I was hesitant, (after all, I still didn’t have a studio and I knew nothing about editing and mastering audio – required skills if you plan to narrate through ACX), but I decided to give it a try.
So I signed up for ACX and created a profile, adding my demo and other info to the site. Just nine days after I created that profile, I was contacted by Barbara Venkataraman, who wanted me to narrate her books – WHAT?!?! I was flabbergasted and scared and excited and terrified and panicking – I didn’t even have a studio! To make a long story short, I built myself a really great quality studio as quickly as I could and painstakingly taught myself how to both edit and master audio. It was trial by fire. I’ve since narrated 3 books for Barbara and she is patiently waiting for me to get started on a few more. I’ve been contacted by several other authors to narrate for them and I’m branching out into doing promos and other types of voiceover now. Most of what I've learned about this business, aside from what Amy has taught me, has been through trial and error, research, hard work, and the help of some good friends (most notably Justin Fraction and Rebecca Keller). A huge thanks to all the people mentioned here, they have all been instrumental in my voiceover successes!
My VO career is still rather young compared to my Acting career (I’m still learning) and my journey has been anything but typical. So rather than give you a step by step guide on how to get started, I’m going to point you to some resources. You can explore them for yourself in order to determine whether voiceover is something you want to pursue.
In order to do voiceover, you need several things. You need to train your voice, learn how to interpret copy, where and how to breathe, and which words need to be emphasized. You also need to know how to market yourself, which includes having a great demo. Also having a home studio is almost a requirement these days if you even want to think about working in voiceover. And when you’re just starting out it behooves you to get a great DAW and teach yourself skills such as basic editing and mastering. Woo! I know it seems like a lot. It is. Don’t be fooled, just because voiceover can pay really well and it’s something you can do from the comfort of your own home, doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be a tough business to break into.
The very first thing you need to do is get into a class and get some training. This will help you to ascertain whether voiceover is really for you, if your voice will help you earn money, and just exactly what your voice type is (Yep, just like in acting, you will have a type when it comes to voiceover). You need to take a class before you go out and spend money on putting together a demo and a studio, so that you aren’t wasting your hard-earned paychecks. These classes will teach you many of the things mentioned above – training your voice, breathing, and appropriate word emphasis. I suggest you sign up for one and take it from there.
Here’s a few places you can get VO training in Pittsburgh:
Nancy Mosser Casting – Amy Hartman & Jack Bailey
Market Street Sound – Amy Hartman
Corbriwood Studios – Jack Bailey
Find Your Voice – Jean Zarzour
I have only studied with Amy Hartman, so I can only personally recommend her.
Here’s two books you can read:
Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home…And on the Road
Making Money in Voice-Overs
Here’s two websites that serve as invaluable resources:
Voice Over Xtra
And here are some sites where you can find work:
There are lots more resources out there, but these are some good starting points. Be sure to check them all out because there is a ton of info packed into each. Hopefully someday you'll be telling your own “How I Got Started” story.
Next Week: Audiobook Recipe - Serves 1 (Part I)